Oilers-Predators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 24, 2013
A strong start to their homestand has the Nashville Predators just outside the Western Conference playoff picture. The Edmonton Oilers need a solid trip to avoid falling even further back in that crowded race. Tied with San Jose and Columbus with 32 points - one back of eighth-place Dallas - Nashville (13-13-6) will try to win its third in a row on a four-game homestand that ends Thursday versus Phoenix. The Predators have scored 10 times - their most in a two-game stretch this season - since returning from a 1-4-0 trip. Six of Nashville's goals on the homestand have come in the opening 20 minutes after it netted four in the first 10:15 of Saturday's 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets. The Predators had one total goal in the first period in their previous four games, which included a 3-2 defeat at Edmonton (11-12-7) on March 17. "We haven't quit - we've found ways to score goals," said center Mike Fisher, who has five of his nine goals this season and two assists during a six-game points streak. The Predators, who play 10 of their final 16 at Bridgestone Arena, have also found a way to protect home ice, going 4-0-1 there since a 1-0 loss to Vancouver on Feb. 22. They've outscored their opponents 22-10 during that stretch, which includes a 6-0 rout of the Oilers on March 8. Nashville's Patric Hornqvist scored in that contest, but he also suffered an upper-body injury when boarded by defenseman Theo Peckham and hasn't played since. Hornqvist, though, skated with the club on Friday and could return on Monday. While the Predators go for their first three-game home winning streak since a six-game run from Jan. 7-Feb. 4, 2012, the Oilers will try to rebound from a 1-1-2 homestand. Edmonton's season-best 3-0-2 run ended with Saturday's 3-0 loss to St. Louis, its first regulation loss since its visit to Nashville. "It was definitely our weakest performance in a long time,'' said coach Ralph Krueger, whose club gave away a 3-1 third-period lead in Wednesday's 4-3 shootout loss to San Jose. The Oilers, 13th in the West with 29 points, are hoping to turn things around in Nashville and St. Louis. Edmonton won its last two road games - 6-5 over league-best Chicago on March 10 and 4-0 over Colorado on March 12 - to cap off a franchise-record nine-game trip. "We had success in our past two road games, so we've got to turn the ship around and get back to winning," forward Jordan Eberle, who leads the club with two points against Nashville this season, told the Oilers' official website. Edmonton's last 3-0 road stretch was March 23-April 1, 2012. Devan Dubnyk should be back in net for the Oilers after his string of 11 consecutive starts ended Saturday when Nikolai Khabibulin made his first start since Feb. 25 due to a groin injury. Dubnyk, who stopped 29 shots in the March 17 win, was pulled after the first period in the Oilers' last game in Nashville after getting beat by Hornqvist and David Legwand. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne made 24 saves on March 8 for his first career shutout versus Edmonton. He's won the last two games after going 0-2-0 with a 5.22 goals-against average in his previous four starts.
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